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Many believe that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act imposes additional requirements for service of civilian process.  It does not - there is no federal law requiring that serving military personnel is any different than serving civilians.

Army Regulation 27-40, Chapter 2 governs service of civilian process on military members.


Service of Process Within United States

Service off-post is solely governed by state law.

Service on-post depends upon whether the land is exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction:

  • Exclusive Jurisdiction - on land with exclusive federal jurisdiction, the state did not retain any jurisdiction over the land when it was ceded to the U.S.  An example of this land is the main cantonment area on Fort Carson.  On such land, the Army will determine whether the servicemember wishes to accept service voluntarily, and if so, will cooperate to effect service of process.
  • Concurrent / Proprietary Jurisdiction - land where the state withheld some or all jurisdictional rights when the land was ceded to the U.S. (e.g. on the U.S. Air Force Academy the state of Colorado shares concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government), if the servicemember does not voluntarily accept service, then the military will allow the requesting party to service the military member.

Generally the provost marshal's office on each installation is tasked with cooperating with service of civilian process, and will be the initial point of contact.


Service of Process Overseas

Service of host-nation legal paperwork is typically governed by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) or other agreements between the U.S. and host nation.

Service of U.S. state court paperwork is similar to serving on exclusive federal land - the Army, for example, will first ascertain whether the servicemember will voluntarily accept service.  If not, the requesting party is advised that he/she must comply with the requirements of the host nation or Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. U.S. consular officials will not ordinarily assist in overseas service of legal process.  22 C.F.R. §92.85.

For information on service in a particular country, the U.S. Department of State has a helpful web page with a country-by-country index detailing service (and, if applicable, translation) requirements.


Deployed Servicemembers

How do you serve a military member who is deployed?  Forget about it.  Unless the servicemember is willing to accept service of process, or are real close friends with someone in his/her unit who would risk alienating the servicemember by serving him/her (and the command won't help), there is effectively no practical way to serve a deployed servicemember.

Moreover, thanks to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, even if you could serve a deployed servicemember, the case would likely be stayed until the deployment was over anyway.  So if you're trying to get quick service, as an example to preserve a date for retroactive child support, you better try to serve the person before the deployment.